I'm a little ashamed to say that my first instinct was to squeak out, "You have the wrong person!" I didn't attempt to calm the woman down, or figure out what was going on, or who she was, or try to protect my friend, I simply blurted out the first thing I could think of to try to get myself away from this crazy woman. She was at least a head taller than me, and that was with my heels, and her hand around my arm was quite strong, so I was panicking.
"Like I've never heard that before," she sneered as she yanked me inside, pushing the door closed and looking me up and down. "Your parents told me you haven't been acting your age, but this isn't quite what I expected."
My cheeks flushed red for a moment as I looked down at my outfit. I hadn't had time to change from my suit to something more casual before rehearsal, and then I'd gotten sidetracked with Holly's drama. Luckily, we hadn't been working on the dance, so it didn't matter too much. I couldn't imagine anyone's parents getting mad about their 18 year old daughter wearing it, though, certainly not enough to call a... whatever this woman was.
"That's because I'm not Holly!" I tried again, fumbling with my purse and shoving my driver's license at her. "Look!"
She sniffed as she inspected it, grabbing it away and tossing it onto a small table of knick-knacks and mail sitting in the foyer. "You think I've never seen a fake ID before, young lady?"
"It isn't fake!" I protested, though I realized partway through that was just what I'd say if it was. I started to dig through my purse again, searching for some other sign of proof, finding my keys next. "Here, see? Car keys! Holly doesn't have a car!"
"You used to," she answered coolly, entirely unimpressed. "So you kept them after you wrecked your car. That means nothing." I glared at her, hardly able to believe I was having to prove my identity to this stranger, but the stern expression she gave me in return just made me more eager to do so. When I began to hunt for one of my credit cards, however, she snatched the purse away, setting it on the table next to my keys and license. "I've had enough playing around. Now, your parents..."
"They aren't my parents!" I protested, stomping my foot in helpless rage. "God, why won't you just listen to me?!"
Tears sprang to my eyes unbidden as she slapped me across the cheek. I gasped, rubbing my jaw - it hadn't been hard, exactly, the surprise of it hurting just as much, if not more, than the actual blow, but it was still enough to silence me for a moment. "Because I am in charge, young lady, and I have no tolerance for lying children."
"I'm not a child!" I insisted. Neither was Holly, for that matter, though I didn't bring that up. "Look, can we please just talk about this? Holly is out in my car right now..." Feeling bad for selling her out once again, I quickly added, "but I think we all need to have a long chat before anything else happens here."
"Oh, and I suppose I should just let you run out and get her?" She chuckled humorlessly. "I wasn't born yesterday."
"We can both go!" I offered. "That's what I meant! I'm not trying to trick you, I just want to straighten this all out!"
She paused for a moment, then pulled the door open, tugging me back outside. "All right, let's go, then. Where is..." She paused when she saw my car, having clearly not expected that. I couldn't help but feel a little proud at that, as I gained a little footing in this previously quite one-sided battle. Without another word, she began to stomp across the yard, dragging me behind her, struggling to keep up in my heels.
"Excuse me, ma'am," the woman said as we got to the car, peering into the open window. "I'm sorry to bother you..."
"That's all right," Holly smiled, peering out at us from where she'd moved to the driver's seat for some reason. "I was just waiting here to make sure everything was fine. She was a little worried because she didn't recognize your car, so I thought I'd give her a minute."
"That's nice of you," the woman nodded, "but there's nothing wrong here. I was hired by her parents."
Holly stared at the woman, tapping on the steering wheel. "I hate to question you, but... Do you have any proof? She didn't seem particularly glad to see you, and she looks less than happy right now..."
"Of course I'm not happy!" I spat, finally breaking free of my shock at realizing Holly wasn't going to bail me out after all, trying desperately to wriggle my way free of the woman's grip. "Holly, you get out of my car right now and tell her the truth!"
This time, the smack that shut me up fell across my backside, my skirt and thong doing little to protect me from its sting. "No problem," the woman said, without skipping a beat. "I have a letter here admitting her to my care, signed by both her parents." She dug in the pocket of her pants for a moment before dredging up a piece of paper, which she handed over to Holly.
"My, my..." Holly shook her head, glancing at the paper as if she knew what it meant. "Well, I'm sorry to have bothered you, then. It's just that all of us in the show try to look after her, you know..."
"I understand," the woman smiled, then turned serious. "I'm afraid Holly is most likely going to have to drop out of the show, however. At the very least, she won't be at rehearsal for the next week."
"That's too bad," Holly sighed. "We'll miss her."
"Stop it!" I demanded. "Holly, this isn't funny!"
"You stop it!" the woman told me sternly. "Nobody believes your lies, young lady, and they're only making things worse. Now say goodbye to your friend - we have a lot of work today, and you've wasted enough time."
"Goodbye, Holly. I hope she helps you," Holly said. The bitch must have been a better actress than I'd thought, because that was an Oscar-worthy performance.
"You can't do this!" I yelled, only for it to dawn on me that I was right. She couldn't. "Tell her to start her car," I commanded the woman, who looked less than happy at my tone. I turned to face Holly again. "Come on, start the car! She can't, because it's my car! Come on, just tell her..."
"We've wasted enough of this nice young woman's time," the woman cut me off. "Have a good night, ma'am."
"You, too!" I heard Holly say as I was dragged back across the yard, fuming.
"No!" I shrieked, still fighting to get away. "God, didn't you look at her?! She's obviously younger than me!"
"It certainly didn't look that way to me," she responded, in quite the blow to my ego, followed by a more physical one, across my bottom again, motivating me to go back inside, staring desperately out at my car as the door was shut once again.
"Then look at the pictures! There has to be pictures of her!" I suggested desperately.
"Holly Elizabeth Prescott." Her tone was still just as authoritative, but I could hear the professionalism slipping. "I have had just about enough of you."
"Please," I begged. "I'm not Holly. I'm Laura. Laura Michelle Jenkins. It says it right on my driver's license. It's not fake, I swear! Look, just go to a photo album and look up a picture of Holly and you'll see it isn't me!"
"I suppose I could do that," she said, "if you hadn't destroyed all the pictures of yourself, now, couldn't I?"
My blood froze at the sound of those words. "But... But..." I searched through my mind, trying to think of something, anything I could use to prove who I was, or, at least, that I wasn't Holly. "You can't just do this," I tried instead. "Holly is 18, her parents can't just put you in charge of her... She's an adult!"
The woman smiled, shaking her head at me. "You're really stretching, aren't you? Do you really think this is going to work?"
"It would be," she agreed, taking out the piece of paper again, "if you hadn't signed as well. Now, I'm sorry you're having second thoughts, but it is simply too late for that, and you know it."
I hardly heard the last of that sentence, as the world seemed to fade away while I stared at the paper, and Holly's signature, plain as day. I'd seen it just the other day, when I'd forgotten my script at home and had to look at hers. Right on the front page, she'd signed her name with what looked like the exact same loops and swirls I was seeing before me.